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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Everyone's at it
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Of course it's not just us. The marina rings to the cries of deck crew and the person aloft asking for a change in height, an additional tool to be sent up on a halyard, or a piece of crucial information.
This is Mike up Aquila's mast. They've only got the one, but it's a lot higher than either of ours. And respect to Linda - they don't have mast-steps, so she has to winch Mike up there. Fortunately, they have electric winches, which takes some of the pain away.
Our six-year old neighbour Veronica, was fascinated by all this and spent some time trying to do the Indian Rope Trick up her boat's spinnaker halyard, very frustrated at her lack of success.

Life on Roaring Girl
Hanging around
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

It's spring, we're about to go sailing. That means rigging checks. At least this year, we've haven't lost some errant halyard inside a mast. But checking every split pin, every weld and sheave, and washing two big masts still means a lot of time aloft.
Over three days, Sarah spent about eight hours clambering up and down Roaring Girl's two masts - one of the downsides of a ketch over a sloop is that it doubles the rigging checks. Here in Rome, the boat has become absolutely filthy, so every inch of both masts has also been washed down, and the track's lubricated with silicon. That's our trusty orange bucket dangling in the rigging, with soapy water in it.
Finally it's done - a big job crossed off the list.


Life on Roaring Girl
Chasing the ferret
08/04/2010, Fiumicino

Ex-pats with fixer-uppers in sunnier climes. Cruisers fixing their boats in exotic ports. A key word in the new language: find the DIY store. American friends look for the hardware shop. In Spain it's the ferreteria (universally known as the ferret by Brits building their illicit homes in the Andalusian hills), in France, the bricolage. And in Italy it's the ferremente.
Or in the way of the western world, your key destination is known by the global brand - B&Q (thanks, Ellen!), or Homebase. On our wanderings so far, the French chain Leroy Merlin has been pre-eminent. Want some clips for boathooks, sandpaper and paint brushes, inox washers or sanitary hose? Don't want to pay inflated chandlery prices? Find a ferremente, and the larger the better.
Here in Ostia there are a few small ferremente, mostly focused on the car-owner, but a good one near the Panorama supermarket. They're helpful and even have English speaking staff, but are inevitably limited in stock and charge slightly higher prices. So, where's the nearest biggie?
The answer is in Fiumicino, which has, besides a canal, a fishing port and an airport, a large collection of retail parks and shopping malls. A free bus runs three or four times a day from Ostia and back. You catch it outside the pharmacy four doors from the aforesaid ferret. (Timetable available from the marina office.) It drops you outside a large covered shopping centre, with all the usual names inside. This mall also include a huge supermarket, which dwarfs anything in Ostia, very useful for large scale victualling.
From the bus-stop, turn away from the mall and cross the railway on the covered bridge. On the far side, catch a bus for Maccarese. You will see Leroy Merlin and Decathlon appearing through the foliage of roads like a distant dream. Suddenly, the bus roars up alongside the retail park you need; ring the bell or it will sweep you off to some unknown flat-lands beyond our ken.
In this retail park, there's a huge Leroy Merlin, various sports shops, and a very satisfactory pizzeria. We made a successful trip with Linda and Mike, returning heavily laden with electrical tape, a new drill and all sorts of other goodies. A well-caught ferret.

Life on Roaring Girl
Working on the boat
07/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Well - we modified the settings on the Victron inverter/charger (that thing with all the superconductors in the last picture) and it seems to have had some positive effect. For the really interested - we found both the charging current and float voltage needed some amendment, and since then we have seen much less high voltage and not the same shocking power drain when high-demand appliances are switched on.
We are still seeing a high drain when we have two or more of our alepnglows on but Pip is about to put new bulbs in all of them and then we'll see. So - some progress and we've learnt a lot about our boat electrics. Still learning even after 7 years!
Sarah went up the mizzen in the morning - and found it was b---y cold once you are 10m up in the air. All the rigging was fine, but it was much too cold to go splashing water about to clean the sail track and other connectors. Which they badly need after sitting in the salty air of Ostia for several months, rain or no rain. So instead of attacking the main mast we faced up to the electrics. And of course by the time we'd finished the wind had died and it was a great day for rigging work.
But instead we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate our successful work on the demon charger.

Life on Roaring Girl
Electricity
06/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Electrics on boats are always challenging, and for us our biggest technical weak point. We have a sophisticated system which is wonderful when it works well, but is accompanied by some lousy manuals. (Come on Victron - it can't be that difficult to find good translators!)
We are trying to track down and cure the high voltage levels that have been causing us some problems with domestic appliances, and have possibly damaged our much loved alpenglow lights. The next stage, after numerous other checks, is to test all the settings on our extremely clever charger/inverter, shown here with the front off.
Yes, it's very intimidating. Our thanks to many friends at the wonderful cruisers forum who are helping us through this process. Things have already improved a bit by adjusting elements of the controls.
We'd still rather climb the mast/rebuild the skeg/paint the hull - almost anything rather than fiddle with electrics. But then - without it we wouldn't be writing and posting this blog from on board, so it has its uses!

Life on Roaring Girl
And Lucy came too
Extremely variable
06/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Just down the pontoon from us are our new friends Linda and Mike on their Hylas Aquila. You can read all about their adventures at their blog, www.svaquila.com, including their newest crew member, shown here making up to Pip. As Linda says, she's already made major sacrifices for Lucy, not least flying economy from California with her, while Mike (who's very tall) enjoyed business class up front!
It is fun to see another Bichon Frise, just like our friend Milou. Lucy's obviously settling into the boat life really well, so we hope she doesn't suffer from seasickness when they get away from here in a few weeks.
It has to be said that the last few days have had some challenging moments in terms of rolly boats, lurching planks and low temperatures. After beautiful weather on Friday and Saturday, Easter Sunday and the Bank Holiday were characterised by pouring rain, strong winds and heavy swell. Given the weather, the marina was not too uncomfortable (despite its reputation), but ti was extremely cold and nasty for two days. Roll on summer.

Life on Roaring Girl
Ropes and springs
06/04/2010, Ostia Lido

We got back to Roaring Girl at the end of March. She was fine, sitting sweetly at her position.
When we came back in February, having been away longer than planned, some of our dock-lines had really suffered from chafe, and one had worn through. Fortunately we'd left back-ups and the marina staff had made sure she was safe. But we finally bought even bigger springs. For years we have used the metal type ones you can see on the right. The blue lines lead to our neighbour, and the white lines are ours. Springs of this kind have done us proud, including during our first winter aboard, in Brighton marina, dealing with the south-westerly gales of the Channel.
But the stresses of a Med mooring are a bit different and we decided it was time to upgrade. The spring on the left is a big beefy object with some astronomical breaking strain. The lines are 24mm; there are three on each side, one to the bows, round the Sampson post and to the cleat, with the spring; one back up line (deliberately looser than the spring at full stretch) going directly to the cleat, and one further back up line that goes from the dock to the midships cleat.
The little brown bobble is on the lead line which connects to the very stout warps that are holding us off the quay, by going from our stern cleats to a chain embedded along the sea floor.
The springs are immensely important. They relieve shock and wear on the ropes and protect the fittings of the boat. And strong springs like these really take a lot of the jolts out of big wind gusts and swell, making the whole night more comfortable.
The final beauty of these new springs is that they do not squeak! If you have ever clambered on deck, wearing only jims-jams, in a howling gale, at 0300, to sprinkle washing up liquid on squeaking, creaking, be-damned shock absorbers - you know what a blessing this is.

Life on Roaring Girl
On our way
26/03/2010, See map

If all this sounds like a litany of disaster, we are still cruisers! We head off for Rome this weekend, leaving the house in capable hands. Six months of cruising lie ahead, to revisit the Tuscan islands before exploring Corsica, Sardinia and points south on the way to over-wintering in Malta. The map above comes from worldatlas.com and shows most of where we intend to go.Watch this space for our adventures, and any relevant snippets of sailing info that updates the pilot books.
Speaking of info, we are members of the Cruising Association and we were really chuffed to be asked to contribute to the amazing new web-pages that the team has been putting together to provide up-to-date info about all sorts of cruising areas. If you cruisers of UK, Baltic and Mediterranean waters out there are not already members, then join up at www.cruising.org.uk/ so you can access and contribute to one of the best sources of cruising information on the web.


Life on Roaring Girl
Porto Turistioo di Roma
01/10/2009, Ostia Lido

So we made some frantic phone calls. The wonderful Manuela at the Porto Turistico found us a berth for six months - actually at slightly less than Nautilus Marina. We motored back out of the river, round the corner and into this spiffing harbour. It has been built inside two breakwaters, and a lot of care has been taken to try and minimise swell. This matters a lot, as it has a poor reputation for swell, and we shall see how well the curved walls and large spending beach actually work. (Right now, it's very calm!)
It can't be as bad as our first winter aboard, on a pontoon right by the seawall in Brighton. Nor even Toulon, where you are constantly rocked by ferry wash.
It is a bit soulless, but it has all facilities, other liveaboards (even English-speaking ones!), excellent security, and easy public transport links into Rome. Our plan is to get Roaring Girl set up for the winter months (stow the kayak, get the bicycles out), and then start exploring the Eternal City.

Life on Roaring Girl
Cabo Linaro
28/09/2009, South of Civitavecchia

Another two miles south is this headland, which is adorned by these splendid modernist houses.
We had a fantastic, gentle sail much of the 25nM south to the Tiber. Cruising chute up, a steady 4 knots, flat sea, warm sun. A great last passage of the season.

Life on Roaring Girl
Riva di Traiano
28/09/2009, Civitavecchia

We were going to go into Civitavecchia harbour and take our chances in the yacht basin. But the pilot book describes them as noisy, crowded and very hot. We couldn't raise anyone from the harbour on the VHF, and quailed at the port full of ferries, liners, container ships and the like. So we turned our tired bows the two miles further south into the modern marina at Traiano.
This was the first ordinary marina we'd entered since Genoa. Showers! Washing machines! Most of all, lots of attentive help with the berthing. We're not used to that, the usual British way being to let you get on with it. Of course, you must have some help here often, as there is no way to get your bow lines onto the rings on the quay without help. But here, they come and nudge your stern and help you haul the mooring line out of the water onto the aft cleat - as well as having someone on the quay. They were astonished in the morning when we simply let go our lines and left our slip without any help!
Still - it helps to justify the off-season charge of 50 euros!

Life on Roaring Girl
Line astern
26/09/2009, Porto Giglio

This is the stern line. The water is so clear, it's hard to tell how deep it has become - an additional frightener when the ferry is looming above the decks!
The town itself is very sweet but very touristy. Lots of over-priced restaurants. Above the port is a walled village, dating back to when this island was ruled from Aragon. Unfortunately we didn't get there. On Saturday morning, we were told we had to leave, as a big fishing festival and competition was being held that day and the harbour was full. What's more, we had to be gone by 1100, as yet another ferry would be using the quay. That cut our time short, but we hope to go back another time and see more of the island.
We had been pronouncing Giglio with two hard 'g's - a laughing island. In fact, both are soft, making it more like Jeelio, which is Italian for lily. We left the island of the laughing flowers for Isola Giannuttri, just 12 miles south.

Life on Roaring Girl

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